Third District Race Now Features Five Candidates

The race for Third District county supervisor has intensified, with four hopefuls now challenging incumbent Neil Derry.
Much of the media focus on the Third District race so far has been  San Manuel Band of Mission Indians tribal chairman James Ramos’ effort to unseat Derry and Derry’s counterfire at Ramos.
Three others, however, have tossed their hats in the ring, a development that could complicate and lengthen the electoral process. If no candidate achieves a majority of the vote in June, a run-off between the two top vote-getter will ensue in November.  Kenneth Hunter of Redlands, Robert Wilson of Colton and Jim Bagley of Twentynine Palms have entered the race.
Ramos, a Democrat, is aligned with district attorney Mike Ramos, a Republican. Mike Ramos is a member of what is often referred to as the “Redlands Political Machine,” which counts among its leaders Congressman Jerry Lewis, former Third District San Bernardino County supervisor Dennis Hansberger and former Assemblyman Brett Granlund, as well as political operatives Dave Ellis and Dave Gilliard, Republicans all. In embracing James Ramos, the Redlands Political Machine crossed political lines. Derry is a Republican, a one-time field representative for former Assemblyman Fred Aguiar. In 2008, Derry, who was then a San Bernardino city councilman, challenged and defeated Hansberger.
The Redlands Political Machine joined forces with James Ramos, who as the chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, is independently wealthy and can infuse his own campaign with a substantial amount of cash. In 2008, Hansberger was outmaneuvered by Derry, who secured the endorsement and monetary backing of SEBA, the Safety Employees Benefit Association, the union that represents the county’s sheriff’s deputies. Last year, Mike Ramos had his office’s investigators look into how Derry had acquired money for his 2008 run against  Hansberger. When those investigators came across documentation to show that Derry had received $10,000 from a political action committee controlled by Bill Postmus, the Inland Empire PAC, and that the Inland Empire PAC had received $5,000 from a one-time Hansberger acquaintance, Arnold Stubblefield, a property owner and developer and a principal in the Highland Town Shop, they intensified their inquiry. Investigators learned that Stubblefield wanted to support Derry, but for political purposes, i.e., not wishing to offend Hansberger, he did not want to contribute directly to Derry’s campaign. Derry then, according to investigators, collected a $5,000 check from Stubblefield to Postmus’ PAC and passed it along to Postmus with the “understanding” that the Stubblefield funds were to support his campaign. That information was provided to the California state attorney general’s office, which charged Derry with one felony count of perjury, a second felony count of filing a false campaign report and a misdemeanor violation of failure to report a campaign contribution. Last summer, in a plea arrangement, the two felony charges were dropped and Derry pleaded guilty to the single misdemeanor of failing to report a campaign contribution.
James Ramos’ supporters have made much of the criminal charges against Derry and his admission to the misdemeanor. Ramos’ political operatives were able to use the plea to convince SEBA to back away from Derry and instead endorse Ramos.
Derry, meanwhile, has fired back, posting a mailer to more than 15,000 Third District voters, referencing Ramos’ connection to two of his relatives that are also tribe members who were convicted of an  attempted murder for hire, along with Ramois’ alleged connections to  “Mexican Mafia gang  members” and “drug dealers” who have operated with impunity from  the sanctuary of the San Manuel Reservation, allegedly under the protection of Ramos.
Previously, state Assemblyman Paul Cook, a Republican, had declared his intention of running for Third District supervisor. In his early campaigning, he had referenced Derry’s legal travails as a factor in his decision to run. Cook, however, abandoned the race for supervisor last month in favor of running for Congress in the 8th Congressional District.
Two relatively lesser known entities, Hunter and Wilson, have recently given indication they would seek the supervisorial post. Last week they were joined by a somewhat more renowned candidate, former Twentynine Palms Mayor Jim Bagley, who is currently the chairman of the San Bernardino County Airport Commission. Bagley was appointed to the airport commission by Derry. Bagley possesses the most extensive experience in government among Derry’s four challengers. He is a former president of San Bernardino Associated Governments, which serves as the county’s transportation agency; was the former chairman of the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission; and was on the boards of the California League of Cities and the Southern California Association of Governments.
Bagley, who serves on the airport commission at the pleasure of Derry, offered outright contradictory statements with regard to whether he thought Derry’s circumstance vis-à-vis his guilty plea to a campaign reporting-related misdemeanor was relevant to the campaign.
At one point he said that he was against “negative, divisive politics” and that he would “try to be an alternative to the negativity and mudslinging that’s already been part of this campaign.” Nevertheless, Bagley insisted he was a candidate who could reinstill “ethical leadership to the board of supervisors. I’m running because in San Bernardino County we have a long legacy of political corruption.” He accused both Derry and Ramos of being in league with “powerful moneyed interests. This has created an environment for corruption. I’m opposed to that. That’s why I’m running.”

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